Directed wonderfully by Steve Scott, Christopher Durang's production of a clever, engaging show is a mash-up of melancholy and regret. Charlie Corcoran's set is mesmerizing and perfectly comfy, deceiving you into thinking you might see only warm apple pies on the windowsill and smiling faces around the dinner table. Think again.
Vanya ( Ross Lehman) and Sonia ( Janet Urlich Brooks ) have remained in their childhood home taking care of their dying professor parents, while their sister Masha ( Mary Beth Fisher) has played the part of homeowner and personal financier to the family through her successful acting career in serial killer movies.
The cleaning lady, Cassandra ( E. Fay Butler ) has the gift of second sight and gives a stern warning of a dark cloud that will lead to the family home being sold. Meanwhile, proudly prancing in his underwear in the pond is Spike ( Jordan Brown), who makes the acquaintance of the naïve Nina ( Rebecca Buller ), who is happy to be along for the ride among this amazing and interesting group of artists, and thrilled about her once in a lifetime chance to attend a costume ball.
Each performer captures the essence of what this play is about through their outstanding performances. The character of Vanya is particularly fascinating and the actor has a brilliant speech toward the end, lashing out at Spike and magnifying the virtue of living a behind-the-times life. It begins with a burst of comedy and subtly gains depth – allowing us to peer into his psyche and see just how a fear of change can cause someone to become paralyzed. Then there's the comedy. Lehman and the cast make this one not to miss. I laughed out loud many times, as did several patrons around me. The show strikes a chord in this fast paced you-better-keep-up-with-the-times-or-we'll-leave-you-in-the-dust sort of world we live in. From those trying to keep up with the pace of today, to others realizing they had better slow down or they're just as likely to miss the point of living life. Even, dare I say – the old fashioned way.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike now playing at the Goodman Theatre through July 26th. Visit www.goodmantheatre.org/vanya or call 312.443.3800 for tickets and more information. Tickets range from $27 - $79.
Reviewed by S.L. Crawley